Regular readers of our articles will know that, as far as we are concerned, image is king. The image that your practice conveys is what attracts patients and keeps them, and ultimately affects the success of your business. This is a somewhat controversial point of view in this sector. Many dentists would rather believe it was their clinical skills which were most important, and their back-up staff would prefer to that it was their efforts that made all the difference.
These, and all the other aspects of running your practice are, of course, extremely important, and certainly contribute towards your image. But as far as your patients are concerned, what they see is what they get. They do not have the expertise to be able to judge your clinical skills so they base their views of your practice largely on what they see, and as we know, in the eye of the beholder, perception is reality. Which is why it is so important to have an image that
accurately represents your practice, that appeals to your target audience, and that is consistent throughout the practice.
A big part of your image is, of course, the actual look of the practice. Get this right and it will have a positive effect on how patients perceive your practice – get it wrong and it will adversely affect perception. Gavin Willis, director of dental design specialists Paradigm Design, said: ‘It is crucial to get the design right for your patients. You have to pitch it so it appeals to the patients you want to treat, and avoid the temptation to pitch it too low simply because it is
easier or cheaper.’
Also vital is ensuring that the design is carried through consistently to every aspect of the practice. Gavin added: ‘You must make sure that the design created for you is followed through completely. So many projects can be watered down through budget or negligence, which means the overall effect of the design is lost.
‘The patient’s experience from the time they actually arrive needs to be consistent. The design needs to be well coordinated, and other items such as practice literature and uniforms also need to be in keeping with the overall image.’
Chloe Bullock is the owner of up-and-coming design firm Materialise Interiors, one of whose projects is currently shortlisted in the Private Dentistry Awards. She is in no doubt that interior design is vital to the success of a practice.
‘Practices need to look good in order to compete,’ she said. ‘Dental marketing is quite aggressive now, and the way your practice looks forms an important part of your marketing.’
The emotive angle
‘The visual image is a kind of tripwire for the emotions.’ Diane Ackerman.
Chloe firmly believes that it is important to take patients’ emotions into account when designing a new look for a dental practice, particularly the anxiety or fear that many people suffer.
‘You need to make your patients feel as comfortable as possible as soon as possible, and you need to help them to stay that way,’ she said. ‘Going from a waiting area which is comfortable and relaxing into a clinical area can be an alarming transition. It is important to ensure that patients don’t find themselves going into a stark and intimidating room.’
To Gavin, the dentist’s personality also plays a crucial role in design. He said: ‘The personality of the dentist is a big part of the practice, and the surroundings need to reflect that personality.’
Remember that in order to have a consistent practice image, the design of your practice needs to be reflected in everything else that your patients and potential patients see. At Blue Horizons, we always visit our clients to ensure that their logo and practice literature is in keeping with the rest of the practice. Where a practice is new or being re-launched, where possible we prefer to work with the practice designers to ensure a cohesive approach.